Although his "official" recording career began at age 21, George
Benson [born March 22, 1943] has been making music long before
that. As a child in Pittsburgh, he performed in a local nightclub
[until it was shut down]; he won a singing contest at age 4 and
cut a vocal record at age 10.
He discovered the guitar when he was 8 and by his early 20s
was performing with jazz organist Jack McDuff. Moving to New
York, he met up with guitarist Wes Montgomery, who would be a
huge influence on his developing style. Benson was also invited
to play with luminaries ranging from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock.
Ironically enough, one of his early producers discouraged Benson
from singing – but the 1976 release of Breezin, with
its vocal hit, "This Masquerade," established him as a double
threat as a singer and player.
Breezin was the first jazz album to sell a million
copies and won Benson 3 Grammy awards. Since that breakthrough,
Benson has remained one of the most beloved and respected artists
in the smooth jazz arena.